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Vincent Gillioz

Vincent: "The Ghosts of Edendale is one of my richest and most detailed scores".

Conducted by Phil Davies Brown
August 2nd, 2004

Vincent Gillioz is perhaps only just starting to make a name for himself but you can be sure that he will be around for a long long time.

With scores for many recent horror movies under his belt and the fantastic Christopher Young for a mentor he can't really go wrong.

I chatted to Vinny about his upcoming projects which include scoring duties on 'The Ghosts of Edendale'.

When did you first become interested in music?
I started playing the guitar at 14; I used to play in metal bands.

What do you play?
The guitar and the piano

Were you self taught or did you take lessons?
from 14 to 17 I took private instructions, then self-taught, and at 23 I did a dual degree at Berklee College of Music in Boston(USA) in Performance(guitar) and Film Scoring, where I graduated in the highest honors, afterwards I went back to Switzerland to the Conservatory studying Composition and Orchestration, where I graduated again in the highest honors:-).

What about education, did you take music at school?
In high school you could take music as an option, what I did, it was a boring 2 hour per week class about history of music mostly.

When did you realize that you could make music your career?
When I realized that I didn't have the capacity to do anything else!:-) More seriously, since I was in high school I wanted to do that. But there is no real professional structure in Switzerland, the mentality and the environment is not pushing towards any arts as a career. So I tried to study something else to make a living and make music on the side. But it was very frustrating; you never have enough time to make music seriously. So I decided to take the chance, I worked 3 years full time taking any small temporary jobs, saved money and went to Berklee College of music in Boston. From that time, things have unrolled pretty well. Slowly, step by step but eventually I have been able to make a living out of it.

Did anyone try to put you off? I know that I was never encouraged when studying music.
I had a "loss" of enjoyment of music at a certain time, well, I still enjoyed it but didn't feel the same strong emotion for a precise genre, and I liked everything more or less. It lasted a few years.

No one encourages anybody for any art. I had the same problem as you, in Switzerland, people smile at you if you say you want to be a musician, and they think you're dreaming about something you can't be. I'm wondering why they think that way. There is no reason you can't be a musician, you have 2 arms, 2 legs, a brain, etc., no differences with any other musicians. Those people thinking that way are followers, they lack imagination, and they don't dream anymore. Why ask ignorant people about something they don't know about? When someone doesn't know about something he/she will answer with the stereotypes. And the stereotype of the artist is to be starving.

I agree the education system is terrible, in most schools the saying "Those who can't, teach!" is very true. And I have been myself a teacher for the public department of Geneva, so I know what I'm saying:-)! Very good money though!:-)

I'm not a reference, and I've been very privileged, since I was born in a wealthy country, that allowed me to save money to pay for my studies. But I think that what's important is to choose something you really love, since you love it, you'll be in the "milieu", you'll read about it, constantly think about it, the networking process will be very natural, so you'll know/find more and more the opportunities that exist to make a living out of it. As Chris Young says about film scoring, composing is only the 10th thing you need to know!!! I think he's right, the business side, marketing, networking, etc. is crucial.

As far as music, don't worry about remembering all those theories... Just listen to a piece you love, and then try to imitate it. That's the oldest and best way to understand what is happening.

How did you go about getting noticed?
I'm still unnoticed. You have to market yourself diligently, send your CD everywhere. Network, call, make contest, and try to be as present as possible.

Vincent: "Slowly, step by step but eventually I have been able to make a living out of it".

Your first fully fledged horror score was for 'The Campushouse.com'. How did you get involved in the project and what was it like to work on?
Actually my first real total horror score was for Stefan Avalos' The Ghosts of Edendale. He put an ad on the internet, and then auditioned 7 composers on a scene of the movie. I'm really lucky and happy he chose me.

It was great working with Stefan Avalos, because he's a musician himself, and because he's a talented hard worker. He's trying to do the best movie as possible, so you know that you're working on a project that is worth every drop of your sweat. And he has got the result that comes with it; The Ghosts of Edendale won the Silverlake festival 2003 and has just been picked up by Warner Home Video to be released on Halloween.

How long did it take you to write the score?
It's hard to say because we did it in 2 "sessions", and also because I was working on other projects in between and also had to interrupt the writing because I had been picked up for the Sundance Composers Lab at that time.

Were you and Stefan pleased with the result?
I'm very pleased with the result. The Ghosts of Edendale is one of my richest and most detailed scores, going from functional harmony and traditional orchestration, to aleatoric writing and Webern-like orchestration; and the instrumentation was not less varied, writing for a full orchestra, electronics, acoustic guitar, harmonica, and prepared piano.

How does the process work? Do you see some footage and then start to write?
I wrote to picture, even though the movie was not locked yet. The director and I decide where we need music, and what we want to convey. Then, I like to work chronologically, so that the music follows the development of the story.

How do you work? Do you come up with a theme first and then build on that to create the rest of your cues?
It depends on the movie actually. If I work with themes, I like to use less and less different themes, but it really depends what the concept of the movie is. Sometimes there are no specific themes, just an atmosphere that need to be created. Sometimes there is a reminiscent "color"(instrumentation) for a character, but not a specific melody. It's really fun to find a concept for a movie.

You then went on to score 'Scarecrow'. The first time I saw the film I immediately noticed that the score reminded me of the excellent Puppet Master theme. Was this purely coincidence or is that the kind of sound Emmanuel Itier and York Entertainment were after?
Actually I've never seen or even talked about the Puppet Master. Danny Elfman's brother and mother are in the movie, so Emmanuel Itier wanted Danny to write the main title for it, Emmanuel actually temped the opening with Edward Scissorhands, but Danny Elfman couldn't do it, so I wrote the opening.

You worked on 5 scores the same year as 'Scarecrow' which covered a wide range of genres and musical styles before scoring 'Scarecrow Slayer'. Did you consciously aim to create a different sound or did you try to keep it similar to the first? It sounds very Tim Burton/ Danny Elfman to me.
Exactly, Emmanuel wanted that kind of sound, he loves Elfman.

Who would you say are your favourite composers and influences?
My favorite composers are Stravinsky, Goldenthal, Ligeti, Corigliano, Mussorgsky, Chris Young, Hosokawa, Prokofiev, Penderecki, Beltrami, Elfman, and of course the 2 Gods of film scoring that Williams and Goldsmith are.

I notice that Christopher Young tipped you for the top. He is one of my favourite composers along with Don Davis and John Carpenter, what was it like for you to have him like your work?
Hey great, I love Don Davis too, I actually arranged the String Tribute to Matrix album. Chris Young is not only an amazing composer, but also a true generous person. I have been a fan of his music from his very early scores, so you can imagine how excited I was when he just talked to me, then invited me in his studio, and finally liked my music, I couldn't believe it!!! Chris has been very helpful, always asking what he could do to help me out. And he's helping out many young composers, he's also teaching a film scoring class at USC, and is president of the Film Music Society. He is the most devoted person I have ever seen to film music.

Vincent: "I love the Hellraiser theme!"

What is your favourite Chris Young Score?
I love the Hellraiser theme! Species is great, Bless the Child too.

What kinds of music do you listen to?
Currently mostly soundtracks and classical, sometimes some Jazz (like Coltrane and Coleman) and some rock too (like Red Hot Chili Peppers and early Metallica).

What is your favourite horror score?
Alien 3!!!

What is your favorite style of music?
Film music, and 20th (21st?:-) century classical music.

Can you tell us a little about your upcoming projects including Frost, Headhunter and Chupacabra, and what we should expect to hear when we see the finished products?
Frost is very exciting because it's a Giallo movie of today, and the director, Dominik Alber, wants me to come up with a Giallo sound of today. So it's very refreshing, I'm using a full orchestra blended with distorted guitars and a mezzo-soprano (the opera singer Mashal Arman). Headhunter is great too, because we're going for an orchestra with some processed custom sounds, and suddenly it switches to total sound texture (electronics). It's a very cold and gloomy sound. Chupacabra (working title) is also very interesting to work on, because the director wants to stay away from the traditional instrumentation/clichés one can find in horror movies. He wants me to solely use the instrumentation you find in traditional Mexican music, such as acoustic guitars, trumpets, double bass, and all kind of Latin percussions.

"Thank you ever so much for taking part in this interview Vincent.
And we wish you the very best of luck in the future."

Don't fall behind, make sure you get help
writing college papers fast.


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